Jo’s Roving Patrol: Bees and Bilberry
My route this week was around Enclosure 1, the cattle enclosure behind The Major Oak. The lovely Longhorns from this area are in Assarts Field for the moment as there is more greenery for them to eat. The forest seems strangely empty without them, but they should be back soon to help manage the bracken and bramble amongst the trees.
My route took me past the bilberry patch, which I was glad to see is thriving with new berries beginning to ripen. There are tiny patches of bilberry plants near the one remaining large patch, so hopefully this plant is spreading again. Next to the patch, carefully displayed on a fallen log, was a baby’s shoe. A very human addition to the forest scene.
Although it was quite an overcast day, there was plenty of insect activity. The bumblebees were particularly enjoying the thistles. They snuggled down into the flowers, almost as if they were getting a good scratch from them. There were places under the trees where I could hear a constant insect hum, like the sound from a beehive. However hard I looked I could not see any bees – they were probably too high up for me to see. Clearly the pollinating insects are finding plenty of food in the forest, which is really good news.
I joined part of the Wildwood Trail along the north side of the cattle enclosure, next to Seymour Grove. During the winter, the foresters were in Seymour felling many of the huge pines and opening up the area. Last year it was dark and mysterious, almost impenetrable. Now it is possible to see all the deciduous trees growing there too, shafts of sunlight cut between the tall trees and made it much more welcoming. Along this path there is a magnificent fallen tree which I always think looks like a crocodile with an open mouth. It was lovely to see a group of small children having a picnic there, totally happy and engaged in their surroundings.
After months of lock down when the forest was very quite, I can still find it a surprise to see so many people around. It makes me aware that this is a man made environment. It ceased being a natural environment when it became a royal hunting forest. The magnificent ancient oaks are rejects from a time when oak was felled to build warships, the younger oaks being those that were planted as replacements which were never felled because we stopped making wooden ships. Conservation work helps keep these irreplaceable trees healthy and standing as long as possible, providing homes for countless creatures. Even after they topple, they remain full of life. We are privileged to be able to wander at will in this wonderful landscape and I am thankful to the RSPB for the work it does to maintain and improve it.